Ostreid herpesvirus 1 (OsHV-1 μvar) infection has caused significant mortalities in juvenile oysters (Crassostrea gigas). In contrast to the practices of other animal production industries, sick and dead oysters are not separated from live ones and are left to decay in the surrounding environment, with unknown consequences on fluxes of dissolved materials. A laboratory approach was used in this study to test the influence of oyster mortality episode on dissolved inorganic fluxes at the oyster interface, dissociating (i) the effect of viral infection on metabolism of juvenile oysters and (ii) the effect of flesh decomposition on oxygen consumption and nutrient releases at the individual scale. Nine batches of juvenile oysters (Individual Total wet weight 1 g) were infected via injection of OsHV-1 enriched inoculums at different viral loads (108 and 109 OsHV-1 DNA copies per oyster) to explore infection thresholds. Oysters injected with filtered seawater were used as controls (C). Oysters were maintained under standard conditions to avoid stress linked to hypoxia, starvation, or ammonia excess. Before, after the injection and during the mortality episode, i.e. at days 1, 3, 7, 10 and 14, nine oysters per treatment were incubated in individual metabolic chambers to quantify oxygen, ammonium and phosphate fluxes at the seawater-oyster interface. Nine empty chambers served as a reference. Injections of the two viral loads of OsHV-1 induced similar mortality rates (38%), beginning at day 3 and lasting until day 14. The observed mortality kinetics were slower than those reported in previous experimental pathology studies, but comparable to those observed in the field (Thau lagoon, France). This study highlights that oxygen and nutrient fluxes significantly varied during mortality episode. Indeed (i) OsHV-1 infection firstly modifies oyster metabolism, with significant decreases in oxygen consumption and ammonium excretion, and (ii) dead oysters lead to a strong increase of ammonium (6 fold) and phosphate (41 fold) fluxes and a decrease in the N/P ratio due to mineralisation of their flesh. The latter may modify the structure of the planktonic community in the field during mortality episode. This study is a first step of the MORTAFLUX program. The second step was to in situ confirm this abnormal nutrient loading during a mortality episode and show its impact on bacterio-, phyto- and protozoo-plankton.
M. Richard, J. Bourreau, C. Montagnani, V. Ouisse, P. Le Gall, M. Fortune, D. Munaron, G. Messiaen, M.D. Callier, E. Roque d’Orbcastel, Aquaculture, Volume 475, 1 June 2017, Pages 40–51